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Lighting a flame

The PN needs to kick start the process of seeing what it should stand for. Failure to do so will render it irrelevant

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan
12 June 2017, 7:35am
Surely, it is time for them to do some serious thinking
Surely, it is time for them to do some serious thinking
Before I engage with the onerous task of deciphering what the Nationalist party stands for, I really need to take something off my heavy chest. Over the last five days I have met and heard from ‘mourning’ Nationalist sympathisers. Some of them, I have to say, have been downright funny and ludicrous. More so when I know how some of them have done very well for themselves under a Labour administration, partaking of the bounty of the neoliberal drive and being part of the network of the well-heeled.

I am making special reference to some prominent property agents who have made more than a killing thanks to some very controversial projects that have continued to change the face of this country. It irks me that these ‘mourners’ are easily prone to criticise MaltaToday without even bothering to buy a copy of the newspaper – they obviously do not know what we stand for or what we report about.

It’s easy to be misled into believing some very silly canards in politics. They are stuck in their echo chamber of blogs and sanctimonious social media statuses. They are talking to each other, never bothering to see what is being said immediately outside the circle of political conceit we tend to lock ourselves into.

I cannot change how people think, from either side, but I can try. If readers don’t bother to read, there is little we can do beyond reaching out to them on social media.

But back to the Nationalist party.

I am no doyen of the history of the PN, but I guess I am better prepared than most to talk about it. For the PN always had a mission, from Independence, to restoring normality and ridding this country of the violence and nepotism of the 1980s, and finally to win EU accession for Malta. Alfred Sant did much to rid Labour of those violent elements, and nepotism still remains rife, but the PN also took this country to new heights.

When it presented itself in 2017 as the warrior to fight corruption it seems it was totally unaware that this mission was ill-suited to the intended result. Because the PN happens to have a history of corruption that, no matter what, still lurks in the memory of thousands of people.

Worse still. The neoliberal, pro-business embrace that had made so many businesses rally around its political message, had now been taken up by the Labour party, leaving the PN bereft and in want of a worthy partner.

From an autarkic and inward-looking party, Joseph Muscat relaunched a Labour party with a pro-business agenda. Its centrist agenda was balanced out by liberalism on social issues and civil liberties, and a wider social security net. Falling through the cracks of its pro-growth agenda, is the environment, which remains shallow in profile.

No matter what Muscat and his boys say, the Labour party did not expect last Sunday’s result. They were looking at something of a majority of between 18,000 and 24,000 votes. Little did they know that their economic success story, the chance of dishing out jobs and Simon Busuttil’s persona, would create such wonders for them.

The sheer lack of charisma of Simon Busuttil, coupled with the Egrant allegation fiasco, the decision to again embrace Daphne Caruana Galizia, the one-issue Panama campaign, the power of incumbency and finally Muscat’s mastery in communications and economic management, made the PN a lame duck from day one. It stood no chance against Labour.

The big question that no one wants to ask is, what does the Nationalist party stand for today? You could say that it is for a large group of stuck-up, sanctimonious know-it-alls who simply want to call anyone who did not vote for the PN stupid and corrupt, who think that they are better off emigrating from the island because it is all downhill from here. I’ve seen young teens, children of distraught Nationalist voters, taking to Facebook and fantasizing of running away from the country their parents failed at making ‘Labour-proof’. Such is the pervasiveness of political conceit in Malta.

The truth is that on the ground, nothing has changed. Everything is the same. People still get to places because they know people, which means that they will do anything to make more money and bring home the bacon, whether by perspiration or by greasing some palms. But surely this did not start in 2013.

And likewise, we can say that the Nationalist Party is not a party that should stand for hatred and apartheid, for shaping their political agenda around the prejudices of those who are more vocal and well-versed in making themselves heard. The PN simply has to stop blaming everyone else but itself. Its vision is blurred and it has to stop thinking that it has been routed by some part of the population it does not know well. It lost these people years ago.

Significantly, the PN should start by showing some humility, accept the disastrous result that has again befallen it and reach out to others in a sincere way. It is customary for the losing side in Malta to retain some combative grit, but perhaps the PN’s press releases are giving off a whiff that the election may not be over yet.

Surely, it is time for them to do some serious thinking. In the election campaign the PN picked up people from the wayside who were simply furious and disliked Joseph Muscat: they included Salvu Mallia and Marlene Farrugia, both of them taken in by Simon Busuttil personally, in disregard of the PN’s own organs. This annoyed those who felt they had a historical connection with the PN, and who felt they already knew what the PN stood for.

Some people are also calling for Simon Busuttil to stay. Perhaps they are the same kind of people who ran a campaign based on the premise of us and them, who could see nothing right in anything Labour did, and who first came out virulently against innovative ideas such as the IIP, only to subsequently embrace those same ideas. They were shooting from the hip.

Radical change will mean looking for somebody who can take on a formidable adversary like Joseph Muscat, someone who can cut him down to size and inspire people to a vision of a better Malta and build an alternative political force that can keep in check Muscat. That is not an easy task, which is why the PN should be in no hurry and allow the democratic process to take its course without the intervention and influence of the party officials who ran the party to the ground and want to retain the status quo.

We need an Opposition that is represented by individuals who can be trusted by the people and do not have hidden party agendas.

Simon Busuttil may boast of having lit a flame, but that flame looks like just a flicker of light, only enough to light the fuse of the dynamite that blow the PN out of the water once again. The election result surely proves that.

Take your time, understand the malaise, do the unthinkable. Go for someone new who can help the PN rediscover a political space of action that inspires people. Failing which, all I can see is doom and gloom.  

***

Both leaders were either naïve or unfaithful to the electorate when they promised a cash advance if they move residence to Gozo or a tax credit for moving a business to Gozo. In both cases, the only language the Gozo electorate understands is a free job with the government and a green card to skive off and make more money by the side on an undeclared part-time job (See page 1).

saviour_balzan
Saviour Balzan is the founder and co-owner of MaltaToday. He has reported on Maltese poli...
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